Antiques Roadshow 2023 – Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff 1 – At the scenic Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff, the renowned Antiques Roadshow sets the stage for a parade of incredible discoveries. Among the standout items are some unexpected treasures: jewellery pieces that, astonishingly, were stumbled upon at ordinary car boot sales, a beautifully crafted jacket made by the indigenous Ojibwe people of Canada, and a collection of rare, original illustrations of the beloved character, Peter Rabbit, sketched by none other than Beatrix Potter herself.
Wayne Colquhoun finds himself utterly captivated by a uniquely designed crib that’s been intricately carved to resemble a boat. Its craftsmanship is nothing short of masterful. Similarly, art aficionado Rupert Maas is in awe of a mesmerizing painting by Alfred Janes. The significance? Alfred was part of the very same bohemian circle that boasted the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas as one of its illustrious members. The excitement is palpable when Duncan Campbell lays eyes on a magnificent silver goblet. The work of the famed Australian silversmith Stuart Devlin, this piece is not just an artistic marvel but also holds deep sentimental value. As Duncan learns of its touching backstory, he discovers that the goblet’s owner had journeyed all the way from Sydney to share its familial tale.
In another corner, Fiona enjoys the privilege of an exclusive viewing session at the National Museum of Wales. She’s introduced to the mesmerizing artworks of Welsh artist Gwen John, a name not as globally recognized as Monet or Degas but an equally brilliant contemporary of the impressionist era. Later, a playful challenge ensues when glass connoisseur Andy McConnell tasks Fiona with identifying the outlier among a set of three exquisite Venetian glasses.
Last, but certainly not least, Geoffrey Munn is spellbound by a finely detailed cameo brooch. The curious depiction of two men alongside a pig captures his attention and imagination. Meanwhile, Marc Allum steps in with some expert advice for another attendee: the proud possessor of a brass band instrument known as a sousaphone. The fascinating twist? This musical marvel was salvaged from a scrapyard, waiting to sing its tale once more.
Antiques Roadshow 2023 – Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff 1
Antiques Roadshow is at Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff, where highlights include some surprisingly valuable jewellery found at car boot sales, a jacket made by the Ojibwe people in Canada and original illustrations of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
A Treasured Family Heirloom
Wayne Colquhoun is enchanted by a crib carved in the shape of a boat that has been passed down through generations of the same family. The owner explains that the crib was originally commissioned in the late 1800s by his great-great-grandfather, who was a shipbuilder in Cardiff. Handcrafted from mahogany in an intricate Art Nouveau style, the crib is elaborately decorated with mystical creatures like mermaids and sea serpents.
As Wayne examines the crib, he delights in the fine details – the waves carved into the sides mimicking the sea, the elaborate dragon heads at either end, and the polished brass fittings. He explains that such bespoke, handmade cribs were a mark of prosperity and status in Victorian times. This would have been an exceptionally expensive piece when originally crafted over 130 years ago.
The owner shares how the crib has been lovingly passed down in his family from generation to generation. It was slept in by his great-grandfather, grandfather, father, and now his own newborn son. As his family expanded, many siblings shared it over the decades. It is a treasured heirloom steeped in childhood nostalgia and family memories.
A Lesser-Known Impressionist
Art expert Rupert Maas admires a painting by Alfred Janes, who belonged to the same bohemian circle as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Janes moved to France in the 1930s, where he mixed in avant-garde artistic circles and developed an Impressionist style reminiscent of Monet.
The painting depicts a family relaxing in a garden, rendered in Impressionism’s signature short brushstrokes and vibrant colors. Figures lounge on the lawn, as dappled light filters through the trees above. Rupert praises the way Janes captured the essence of an idle summer’s day, with masterful economy of brush strokes. He explains how Janes adopted the Impressionist style after being exposed to it in France, yet retained his own voice. While lesser-known than Monet and Renoir today, Janes was quietly influential among the Welsh art scene during his lifetime. Alongside poets like Dylan Thomas, he helped incubate a vibrant creative community in Wales during the interwar period.
Rupert values the painting at £8,000-£12,000, calling it a superb example of Janes adopting Impressionist techniques while forging his own style. The owner is delighted, having picked it up for a modest price at a car boot sale. This demonstrates how lesser-known artists like Janes can still command strong valuations.
A Touching Family Story
Duncan Campbell is thrilled to see a silver goblet designed by renowned Australian silversmith Stuart Devlin, and he hears the touching story about its family significance from the owner, who has travelled over from Sydney with it.
Devlin was an exceptionally talented metalsmith who rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s, eventually being commissioned to design coins and medals for the Royal Mint. This finely crafted goblet dates from his early career in the 1950s, when he was making a name for himself in Australia. The owner explains how the goblet was originally a wedding gift for her grandparents. It became a treasured family heirloom passed down to her mother, before finally being inherited by the owner herself. She remembers it always taking pride of place at her grandparents’ dinner table for special occasions. Duncan admires Devlin’s delicate engraving work on the goblet, showing vines and leaves in intricate detail. He explains that Devlin was a perfectionist who took great pride in his work, making this a special piece. Based on similar examples, Duncan estimates the goblet’s value at £4,000-£6,000.
The owner is delighted, not expecting her sentimental family heirloom to be so valuable. This underscores the appeal of Devlin’s early work today as well as the potential worth of familial silver pieces.
A Glimpse into the Past
Fiona is given a private view in the National Museum of Wales of works by Welsh artist Gwen John, a lesser-known contemporary of the impressionists. John painted serene portraits and still-lifes in a Post-Impressionist style, often using friends and family as subjects.
Fiona marvels at a portrait of John’s younger sister, Effie. The composition is strikingly intimate, depicting Effie in a moment of quiet contemplation. Her pensive gaze draws the viewer in. Fiona notes how John employs expressive brushwork to capture her sister’s essence. The warm, earthy palette and visible brushstrokes align with Post-Impressionist trends. She also admires John’s still-life paintings, frequented arranged simply – a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit. But John brings sensitivity to these everyday objects through nuanced colors and lighting. Fiona explains how these humble still-lifes evoke the contemplative spirit of John’s portrait work.
Overall, Fiona praises John for forging her own path amongst more famous Impressionist contemporaries. Her restrained but emotive style exhibits influences from French Post-Impressionism, yet retains a Welsh spirit. These paintings provide a window into John’s distinctive eye for color and introspective themes.
The Art of Identification
Glass expert Andy McConnell challenges Fiona to spot the odd one out amongst a trio of Venetian glasses. At first glance, all three appear to be ornate Venetian goblets with delicate stemware and intricate gold leaf patterns. But upon closer inspection, Fiona notices subtle differences setting one glass apart.
Its gold leaf pattern lacks the fine filigree of the other two. And tellingly, it lacks the bubbles and imperfections consistent with handblown Venetian glass. Andy confirms her suspicions – it is a modern, mass-produced copy. The other two are authentic 18th century originals. This demonstrates Andy’s expertise at identifying genuine antiques, as well as how copies can dupe casual buyers. He explains what distinguishes these original Venetian pieces – the irregular handblown glass and delicate gold leaf applied in layers, allowing the glass color to show through.
Under magnification, these subtle indicators separate the two museum-quality antiques from the modern duplicate. Andy highlights the level of skill involved in the Venetian glassblowing tradition. Even centuries later, these freeform techniques prove difficult to mimic exactly.
The Allure of the Unusual
Geoffrey Munn is enchanted by a cameo brooch depicting two men and a pig, valued at £1,000-£1,500. Though relatively modern, from the early 20th century, its unusual subject matter makes it collectible. The humble pig is an uncommon cameo theme.
Geoffrey explains that cameos typically depict figures from mythology, religion, or portraiture. But this brooch’s lighthearted agricultural subject displays rare novelty that appeals to collectors. The fine carving illustrates the pig’s expressive features and textured hide. The owner recounts how this brooch belonged to her grandmother, who lived on a Yorkshire farm. She imagines the pig cameo would have represented daily life on the farm. Geoffrey agrees, surmising it may even depict a specific pig from the family farm. This personal connection to a rare subject makes the brooch a charming historical curiosity.
Its high level of artistry also demonstrates how cameos can elevate mundane subjects through skilled carving. This agricultural cameo is creatively executed, giving new gravitas to the pig as a subject. Overall, its novelty, quality craftsmanship, and family history make it attractive to collectors.
A Blast from the Past
Marc Allum gives some cleaning advice to the owner of an intriguing brass band instrument called a sousaphone that was found in a scrapyard. This early 20th century model has a wrap-around shape that fits snugly around the musician’s body.
Marc explains that the sousaphone evolved from the helicon – a circular bass brass instrument – in the late 1800s. Bandleader John Philip Sousa commissioned the first sousaphone, improving on the helicon’s design so it could be easily marched with. This allowed it to be integrated into marching bands. While assessing the cleaning needs of the scrapyard-found instrument, Marc points out key sousaphone features – the prominent bell facing forward over the player’s shoulder, the valves pressed with the left hand, and the bore size giving it a deep, booming voice.
After gently polishing the body with brass cleaner, Marc demonstrates how the sousaphone’s tone resonates powerfully due to its forward-facing bell. Despite its scrapes and dents, he extracts a robust, projecting sound – perfect for marching bands before amplification. Marc advises keeping the instrument’s blemishes to preserve its vintage character. The owner is thrilled it can still be played after being discarded. He hopes to display it as a functional slice of early 20th century musical history.
Continuing a Legacy
Fiona hears the touching story behind a Native American jacket embroidered by the owner’s late grandmother, who belonged to the Ojibwe people in Canada. She explains how the vibrant geometric patterns on the moose hide jacket use traditional Ojibwe floral designs.
Having learned these skills from her own mother and grandmother, the owner’s grandmother aimed to preserve their cultural legacy through her embroidery. As she aged, she passed down her knowledge by teaching her granddaughter. Though now in her 90s, she continues to make accessories using ancestral Ojibwe handicraft techniques.
The owner inherited this jacket made over 60 years ago, one of her grandmother’s earliest works. Though the worn hide has become brittle with age, the vibrant red and blue embroidery remains dazzling. Fiona admires the artistry in the stylized patterns, created entirely by hand with porcupine quills and pigment-dyed moose hair. She highlights the importance of sustaining heritage art forms like Ojibwe embroidery. By valuing her grandmother’s work, the owner helps ensure these skills survive another generation. While priceless as a family memento, Fiona values the jacket up to £2,000 for its cultural significance and artistry.
Finding Treasure at the Car Boot
Several contributors uncover surprisingly valuable treasures found for a few pounds at car boot sales. Among the highlights is a collection of sketches and watercolors by celebrated children’s author Beatrix Potter. They depict endearing studies of Peter Rabbit characters which she later developed into her iconic storybooks.
Rupert Maas calls them a rare “missing link,” offering insight into how Potter visualized these beloved characters in the early stages. He values the collection at £4,000-£6,000, emphasizing her significance as one of the most popular children’s book authors. The delighted owner had picked them up for £5 in a job lot decades earlier.
These great finds reinforce that inexpensive car boot sales can still yield valuable antiques and collectibles. Duncan Campbell concludes that with a bit of luck and a good eye, exceptional treasures can be unearthed for bargain prices at flea markets and auctions. For the savvy collector, even a modest investment can occasionally yield outsized returns.
This year’s Antiques Roadshow in Cardiff treated enthusiasts to an eclectic array of noteworthy collectibles and fascinating histories. From a 19th century hand-carved family heirloom to 20th century works revealing Wales’ pivotal role in British art, the featured pieces spanned eras and subjects. Experts illuminated backstories ranging from Impressionist influences seen through a Welsh lens to Ojibwe cultural preservation. Personal connections gave further insight into exceptional craftsmanship by artisans like Stuart Devlin and Beatrix Potter.
For collectors, the show highlighted how overlooked areas can yield treasures, even unlikely sources like car boot sales. Whether uncovering rare paintings priced below their value or identifying one authentic antique amongst copies, the experts demonstrated their discerning eye. Above all, the stories behind these objects reinforced that antiques’ worth often derives from more than monetary value. By preserving memories and sustaining heritage, they form tangible links to the past.
What makes the crib a noteworthy antique?
Its rarity as a 19th century bespoke piece, handcrafted Victorian artistry, and enduring family history over 5 generations make the carved crib exceptionally noteworthy.
How did Alfred Janes influence Welsh art?
Exposure to French Impressionism influenced his style, while his vibrant paintings helped incubate an arts scene in Wales between the World Wars.
Why is the Stuart Devlin goblet so meaningful to its owner?
It holds sentimental value as a wedding gift for her grandparents, later inherited across generations, more than its monetary value.
What distinguished Gwen John among female Impressionist contemporaries?
Her restrained but introspective Post-Impressionist portraits and still lifes forged her own style separate from more famous peers.
How did the sousaphone change marching bands?
Its forward-facing bell and ease to march with allowed sousaphones to provide a strong bass line in mobile marching bands.